By: Elizabeth McDonald
I’m not going to lie. After having such life-changing experiences at NOLS and Pine Ridge, I can’t help but feel a tug at my heart by the lack of self-evolvement I’ve undergone during this week of service. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the work we did or that I didn’t learn anything this week because both of those statements would be unture. Perhaps, my expectations were too high in thinking that every week of service would somehow help to shape a part of me. That being said, I’m at somewhat of a lack of words to describe how I’m feeling right now so will return to the basics and simply provide two journal entries from this week.
Sep 21- Change is difficult. Today was our first day of service in St. Louis. Perhaps due to the impending sickness that is spreading amongst the 15 of us, something felt off this morning. We hit some traffic on our way to the garden, showing up a little late but the people didn’t seem to mind. They gave us an introduction about the organizations that partnered with the garden which was really cool. We then started harvesting vegetables. We picked zucchini, squash, tomatoes and okra. It was fun to see all the vegetables go from stem, to getting cleaned and ready to take. We also helped get the beds ready for winter which included covering them with composted dirt. That was fairly labor intensive but didn’t last for long, which is good. We finished around 11:30, had a quick debrief with the clients and then had lunch. Afterward, we headed over to an elementary school and gardened there for the afternoon. I worked mainly on taking out weeds, which was tedious. It was very hot but we did get the opportunity to work with some first graders which was really cool. I think it’s awesome that they’re educating kids about the importance of eating healthy and also giving them the chance to help out in the garden. We got finished around 4:30 so I went for a run at a park nearby (super nice and shady!). After showering, dinner was ready which was grilled cheese, tomato soup and salad. It was nice to see a majority of us share a meal together. After dinner, we had our meeting and I really enjoyed some of the topics we discussed. One topic was how to personally adapt to people in any environment. After the meeting, some of us played a board game before going to bed. Overall, today was a pretty good day. I think I’ve learned that the first day at any new place is going to be somewhat difficult due to all the adjustments but I hope to gain confidence in the unknown. All for now.
Sep 24- As expected, last night was a very late night. We didn’t get home from the event until around 11:30 and then had to be up by 6:30 this morning so I’m still pretty tired. I was able to talk to mom and dad yesterday which was really nice. I love to hear about what’s going on in their lives. Mom heads to Portland this weekend, Dad is still in negotiation with the box company, Charlie has a busy Saturday and Michael finds out his ACT score Friday. I was also able to go for a run before we left for the “event” around 2:30. We were all dressed in our best, which for most of us included jeans and a nice(r) t-shirt. We went to the Food Outreach Headquarters first which gave us an overview of what that organization did. We then went to the Museum of Contemporary Art to set up for the event. The event itself was basically a charity dinner. Guests paid $100 for a six-course meal. They rotated tables every 20 minutes for the next course. As volunteers, we set up the event, became the wait staff and then helped to clean up. None of us had any experience in this area but as a whole I think we did a pretty good job rolling with the punches of the evening. It was a very interesting experience, to say the least. The stark contrast between the physical labor we did at Pine Ridge and the hands-in-the-dirt work we’d been doing in St. Louis made me personally feel very out of place. The people attending the event displayed little interest as us as individuals but overall, the experience definitely gave me a new perspective of non-profit life. By the end, we were all pretty exhausted. All for now.